Macarons and Infinite Jest
I am about to make a post about a recipe I haven't yet perfected and a book I haven't finished. While some of you might be scratching your heads or picking up your phone to furiously text me about the indignity of it all, please, allow me to explain.
Reading and cooking are alike in that they are two activities some people consider a chore and others consider a pleasant past time. (Then there are those of us weirdos who consider them plain out fun, but we don't need to go into that right now.) When doing something you love, or even remotely find tolerable, there are going to be times that you don't quite measure up to what you had imagined for yourself. For me, nothing perfectly encapsulates this battle more than Infinite Jest.
I have nothing against this book. I have nothing against David Foster Wallace. In fact, from what I've read of the book, I find it challenging and well-written. But for some reason, I cannot bring myself to chew through this book the way I have with so many others. But that's okay! Because taking my time with this one is fine. I'm allowed to say I'm still reading it, and I'm allowed to take ten years to read it if I want to (but I won't! I swear!).
The other thing that's okay, as much as it pains me to admit, is that I have not yet made a perfect batch of macarons. I've made three batches that tasted delicious and ranged in looks from passable to plain yuck. Yes, my eye is twitching as I write this.
The point is that life is too short to worry about doing things perfectly and finishing every book you start in three days. Go forth, read what you want, and bake your best life.
You can do this. I promise.
MacaronsBy Page & Plate, March 20, 2018
Makes: 12 macarons
- 115 grams of almond flour (about 1 cup)
- 230 grams of powdered sugar (just shy of 2 cups), plus 2 more cups for icing
- 144 grams of egg whites (use 4 large eggs), plus 2 extra egg whites for icing
- 72 grams of sugar (about 1/4 cup) plus 1 cup for icing
- 1 tsp of cream of tartar
- 1 tsp of salt plus 1/2 tsp for icing
- 2 tsp of vanilla extract plus 1 for icing
- 2 drops of gel food coloring (I used red)
- 1/2 cup of unsalted butter (AKA one stick)
- Preheat the oven to 300, and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Do yourself a favor and get a disposable pastry bag ready as well. Use a plain tip or just the end of the bag itself. Alright! Look at you! All prepared.
- Sift the almond flour and the powdered sugar together into a bowl. Set aside.
- Fit your mixture with the whisk attachment. If you don't have a mixer, prep your wrists and your hand mixer.
- Throw the egg whites, cream of tartar, and the non-powdered sugar into the bowl of the mixer.
- When stiff peaks have formed (in other words, when you can lift up your mixer and take the meringue with you), add the vanilla and food coloring, then beat for another minute on high. This is a great time to grab that pre-prepped pastry bag.
- Dump all of the dry ingredients into the egg white mixture. Using a spatula, fold them in gradually. Be gentle, but don’t be afraid to fold away and knock some of the air out. You want the batter to be flowy but still have body.
- Pour the batter into the pastry bag, then pipe macarons onto the baking trays. I aim to have them about 1 1/2-2 inches in diameter. This is almost never the case for all of them. Life moves on.
- Slam them on the counter to make sure your downstairs neighbors are awake. Flip the tray, then slam again. Now, leave ‘em be for an hour. You can use this time to make the icing! Yay!
- Put your remaining two egg whites and remaining salt in the bowl of your stand mixer that you hopefully washed out before following that instruction, then turn it on high and beat until the eggs are foamy.
- Meanwhile, in a saucepan, bring the regular sugar and water to a boil. When it’s been boiling for about a minute, take it over to the mixer and slowly drizzle it into the egg white mixture while continuing to beat on high.
- Beat for three to five minutes, until stiff peaks have formed. The meringue should form a perfect upside down ‘J’ when you take the whisk attachment off and flip it upside down.
- Add the vanilla, then turn mixer back on. Add the butter, one tablespoon at a time, until completely incorporated.
- Add the powdered sugar, a little at a time, until smooth and stiff enough to support itself. Put frosting into a disposable pastry bag and set aside.
- Remember those macarons? Bake for between 15-17 minutes. When the macarons have cooled, put icing on half of them and make some proper macaron sandwiches.
Plot: In a futuristic, kind of dystopian world, four stories unfold in various narrative structures and time: the story of a family (the Incandenzas), the story of a tennis school, the story of the AA scene in Boston, and the story of a radical group of assassins.
Thoughts: I love David Foster Wallace's work. I really do. But I started reading this book in approximately 2015, and I cannot finish it. I don't know if it's because of the footnotes or how long it is or how complicated it is or how deeply I know that there is more to this book than I will ever understand. But there my bookmark remains on page 387.
Now, all that being said, if you're looking for a book to challenge your reading skills, your attention span, and your belief of what is and is not possible in the realm of literature, this is the book for you. The skill that went into writing this is obvious, and the experience of reading it, even if you don't finish the book, is not unlike sitting in front of a famous work of modern art and basking in how beautiful it is even while not totally getting what it means.
I might be talking myself into picking this up again.
Verdict: I mean, TBD, guys! It's been my New Year's resolution two years running to finish this book, and here we are. Grab your copy and read along with me!
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